Thirty years ago a group of young American business leaders began to convene values-driven entrepreneurs, investors, and capacity builders as a way to help catalyze a burgeoning impact movement. In the years to come others followed suit: dozens of conferences showcasing business innovations that were both financially sustainable and beneficial for society and the environment began to sprout — both as a response to Reagan-era consumerism and “Greed is Good” mentality, and as a declaration that business could be a force for good.
Founders of pioneering conferences, such as Social Venture Network (SVN) and Investors’ Circle, sparked a new way of thinking about the purpose of convening. They also incubated and inspired the creation of a new crop of impact-focused conferences and networks, including Net Impact and B Lab, that have spread innovative business ideas across the globe and emboldened a new generation of impact-focused business leaders over the past decades.
The role that convenings — that is, in-person conferences, summits, forums, seminars, and workshops — have played in building and shaping the impact ecosystem is the focus of a recently published Conveners.org online report. The report highlights the history of the impact convening movement, as well as provides a data-based analysis of current convening trends. Below are three insights and recommendations based on supplemental research conducted for the report; we hope that these insights, combined with findings shared in the report, can help advance the convening ecosystem conversation and lead to greater impact.